NEC and NTT Docomo develop RAN intelligent controller

Two Japanese companies, NEC and NTT Docomo, are jointly developing a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) for 5G use cases. Their collaboration is based on the non-real-time RIC from Netcracker, which is a subsidiary of NEC.

Netcracker provides an open RAN domain orchestration solution aligned with the O-RAN Alliance. The solution derives from Netcracker's legacy in digital operations support systems (OSS), but the domain orchestration solution also includes some RIC functionality.

In their work together on the RIC, NEC and NTT Docomo aim to automate base station settings, optimize radio resources with compute resources, and reduce RAN power consumption.

The companies say RAN optimization is more complicated for 5G because the latest wireless standard includes new elements such as open RAN, massive MIMO radios and vast amounts of data from thousands of base stations. 

At MWC 2021 in Barcelona, NEC will give an online demonstration showing the application of RIC to Massive MIMO to automatically optimize beam configuration.

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NEC and NTT Docomo have been working together since 2018 to verify and test open RAN technologies. In June 2020 the two companies entered into a capital and business alliance to develop and sell new internationally competitive products for 5G.

RELATED: NTT Docomo selects NEC for 5G standalone core, edge computing

In late 2020 NTT Docomo chose NEC as the vendor for its 5G standalone (SA) mobile core network, which it plans to launch this year.

RIC is heating up

NTT Docomo and NEC are not the only companies focusing on the RIC.

India-based STL is also working on new software for the RIC. STL’s CEO of Access Solutions Chris Rice recently said, “Our goal is to be the RIC for the open RAN industry.”

RELATED: Former AT&T exec leads STL’s foray into open RAN

Rice especially highlighted the work of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which has an open RAN subgroup called the Radio Intelligence and Automation (RIA) group. “They’ve done some interops on the RIC,” said Rice. “I think you’re going to see RIC’s importance will grow over time. I view it will be a very central element.”